Hamline School of EducationMS-A1720Hamline University1536 Hewitt AvenueSaint Paul, MN 55104
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Increasingly, educators are being urged to do systematic, formative needs-assessment in their classrooms: to clearly describe a research need, to consult research literature for best practices, to collect data carefully, to interpret it correctly, and to create interventions that make a difference for student achievement. This is action research, and the MAEd program is strongly committed to supporting teachers in their development as teacher-researchers. The capstone project is an introduction to action research design for classroom teachers.
The capstone project has been the culminating, scholarly activity for Hamline’s MAEd since the inception of the program. The term “capstone” is used intentionally in place of “thesis” because the capstone represents more than formal research supporting an intellectual rationale: it is applied research or action research that captures both the student’s formal study and also their professional and personal development. The capstone is more holistic, personal, and integrated than some forms of scholarship as it demonstrates reflection, analysis, synthesis, and conclusions.
All degree-seeking students produce a written, bound book. There may also be accompanying products such as videotapes, computer programs, manuals, exhibits, and other artifacts developed through the capstone work. The capstones become part of the public knowledge base of the education profession and are a source of information and guidance for other practitioners. They are catalogued in Hamline’s Bush Library and are available for interlibrary loan.
Some MAEd students identify their capstone topics and “burning” research questions early in the program; others explore a variety of topics or questions within a topic before making a decision. In both cases, students are encouraged to develop projects that are personally and professionally meaningful. And either way, MAEd assignments and projects often can be focused on some aspect of a prospective capstone topic, which may help build background. Students typically start developing their proposals (introduction, literature review, method chapters) during GED 8023, Capstone Practicum. The MAEd faculty provides early, strong support for the student’s question development, and this support continues throughout the successful capstone completion experience.
Registration for the capstone credits occurs following successful completion of GED 8023, Capstone Practicum. There is a special registration form contained in the Capstone Completion Guide.
MAEd students must receive approval from the Human Subjects Research Subcommittee to conduct capstone research. The purpose of the human subject process is to protect both Hamline graduate students and those who participate in their studies. Thus, you may only use data that was collected or developed after you received approval.
Because capstones are the culminating action research projects of the master’s degree and are public documents, quality writing is important. Growth in writing emerges through the drafting-revising process done in conjunction with the primary advisor and the capstone committee. Good writing also emerges as the project develops. It is organic process in which the primary advisor is a major source of support.
Well-written capstones are characterized overall and within each chapter by the following: (1) a clear question which the student authentically “owns” and is passionate about; (2) logical, clear organization; (3) sufficient knowledge of sources and sufficient description, analysis, synthesis, and reflection related to the guiding question; (4) careful editing for grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling; and (5) accurate format and citations.
The responsibility for editing the capstone resides with the student and the primary advisor. Matters of content, arrangement of content, and length are decided by the student and the capstone committee.
Although the number of chapters and accompanying artifacts may vary depending on the project and the advice of the capstone committee, each capstone must have an introduction, literature review, explanation of methodology, analysis and interpretation of results, and conclusions.
Once students have a reasonable idea of the capstone topic and research question, they should start setting up the committee that will support and advise them throughout the capstone process. Each capstone committee consists of three members: Primary Advisor, Secondary Advisor, and Peer Reviewer.
• The Primary Advisor is a MAEd faculty member who is responsible for providing ongoing advice related to the developing capstone and accurate information on capstone administrative procedures such as forms and deadlines. The primary advisor also chairs the proposal and final meetings, and determines that the capstone submitted for binding is accurately edited and conforms to program guidelines. • The secondary advisor, who must hold a master’s degree, is generally a specialist in the subject area of the capstone, and offers expertise on the capstone content. The secondary advisor may also offer advice on editing and revising the capstone. • The peer reader is usually a classmate or colleague who supports the researcher as an advocate, sounding board, and editor. In some cases, two MAEd students serve as peer reviewers on each other’s capstones.
Each capstone committee meets twice officially, although the student will interact with each committee member for different reasons throughout the capstone process.
The capstone proposal itself consists of the introduction, literature review, and methods chapters. Students draft and revise these with significant advice from the primary advisor. When the Primary Advisor and Secondary Advisor agree that the proposal is sufficiently developed (this generally means one or more cycles of draft and revision), the proposal meeting can be scheduled. Copies of the proposal are to be distributed to the committee at least two weeks prior to the meeting.The researcher and the committee discuss the introduction, literature review, and method through a conversation that is meant to help the researcher gain insights, share ideas, revise and refine the proposal as needed, and to set the stage for the last chapters of the capstone. The meeting does not focus on page-by-page editing of the proposal, although the student or committee members may ask questions or express concerns about mechanics and citation style, if necessary.
As the project is implemented and the last two chapters are written to describe the actual implementation, the student will consult the primary advisor frequently for recommendations and advice. This may be done through individual meetings or online. When the primary advisor and student agree that the writing is substantially finished except for final edits, the final capstone meeting can be scheduled. The student is responsible for scheduling the meeting date, time, and place and for distributing copies to the committee at least two weeks before the final meeting. At the final meeting, the secondary advisor and the peer reader will provide their final suggestions concerning the content of the last two chapters. After the final meeting, the student incorporates any edits and changes into a next-to-the-last copy, which is reviewed by the Primary Advisor. Once the advisor returns this copy to the student, the final stage of the capstone has been reached. The student makes any additional changes, has two copies printed for Hamline, and turns them and the required forms into the Program Office, along with one copy of the abstract. The Program Administrator provides instructions for the final drop-off.
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